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Thanks to the wonders of transatlantic phone calls, our own Carrie Clancy chatted with rising star Bo Bruce while she was doing press last Friday morning in London. In this lovely interview, Ms. Bruce talks about the importance of connecting with the fans via social media, her debut album that drops in April, her connections with Snow Patrol, and much more. Read on…
How are you?
I am good, thank you.
Good, good. I understand you’ve had kind of a busy week doing press for your album release?
I have. It’s so disorientating. I’ve been sort of doing all the radios, all the regional radios up and down the country, it’s sort of mad.
Yeah. I have seen your name all over my Twitter feed this week with all of the press that you’re doing. Lots of tweets about you.
Oh, that’s good.
Lots of tweets from you, actually, as well. Have you found Twitter is a good way to connect with your fans?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve had to get a lot better at it. But I’m now getting a bit addicted so I’ve got to be careful.
It is kind of addictive, but it’s a good way to kind of keep track of what people are doing. Like I said, I saw both of your videos through Twitter and I saw a couple of other interviews that you’ve done, so it’s been easy for me to keep up with what you’re doing. That’s been nice.
Yeah, it’s a goodie, and it’s also sort of like, I’ve got some amazing fans who are sort of telling everyone what’s going on, and then they come and find me in whatever city doing little press things, so that’s a really good way to sort of stay in contact with everyone.
Good. Well, I assume that a lot of that fan base that you’ve earned has come from your appearance on The Voice last year.
Yeah, definitely, that’s where it started.
That was big in terms of exposure for you. I wanted to ask you about that. Something that happens with the American version of The Voice is, a lot of times I think the artists come off of that show feeling like they have to sort of prove themselves as legitimate artists and not manufactured pop stars. Have you felt any of that?
I guess because I had, you know, I was trying to put forward a music career before I did The Voice, so I’d been living in New York and I’d been gigging there and gigging in London, and I had an EP out, so I sort of felt less pressure because once The Voice had ended, my EP came out, and that went in at #2, I sort of, I felt, it was a good feeling to sort of, you know, I had stuff out there, so I didn’t feel like, you know, I really needed to say, ‘Hey, take me seriously’ because I had stuff kicking around.
Right, you’d done that already. Are the songs on the new album fairly different from what were on the EP?
Actually, it feels like a bit of an extension of that EP. They are sort of, um, bigger, perhaps, and I’ve sort of gone a little deeper into what I’ve really been needing and wanting to say. But there’s a sort of thread, a sort of sound and a vibe that’s in that EP that is definitely, that I’ve taken on a bit to the album itself.
So you’ve had a chance to grow and expand a little bit on that, that’s kind of nice.
I know on the album you have quite a few collaborations with other established artists. I had been reading that you worked with Johnny McDaid, particularly. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, Johnny was the first person I wrote with, and actually the last person. I wrote a very important song right at the start of doing the album, before they went on, Snow Patrol went on their world tour pretty soon, so we did that, and then when they got back, when I sort of felt like I’d finished writing, actually, and then we kind of got together around Christmas and wrote the very last song on my record called ‘How We’re Made’. Johnny is sort of extraordinary, he’s very keen on sort of holding a mirror up to you. You know, nothing really, you don’t get away with much. He really pushes you, and actually, he pushes me more than anyone I’ve ever really met, so when we do stuff together, it’s always pretty, well, it’s an amazing way of writing. We have a great bond, he’s a great friend.
Wow. It’s nice that you have someone like that to work with. Who else did you have the opportunity to work with on the album?
The other person that I’ve done a lot of stuff with is Henry Binns, who’s in Zero7. He kind of ended up overseeing the entire album. We sort of went through the whole mastering process together. We wrote about four songs, I mean we wrote a lot of songs, but there are four songs on there with just me and him. It’s funny, because I’ve still got stuff, obviously the album coming out, but I’m already writing for album two, so I’m going to go and see him later and get back in the studio with him. And he, again, has become a very good friend. Him and Johnny, because they’re that much older and they’ve had a successful time and they’ve sort of done that road, they were amazing to have around, in an emotional support way as well. They really know how it is, what it feels like to be a breaking artist. So, I’m incredibly grateful for that. And then, obviously Sia, who was part of Zero7 back in the day, I’ve got a song on the record with her, and Joel Pott, who’s the lead singer of Athlete, we worked together a lot.
So, it sounds like you’ve got some established artists behind you and that, if you were worried about credibility at all, that would be a stepping stone toward getting over that too. It sounds like you’re very confident in the album.
I am. I feel very much like, you know, choosing to go on a show like I did, when I already had music out, you know, there was always going to be sort of a risk involved, and I feel like I’ve made an album that I would have made had I gone on a show like that or not. I got to really continue with being who, you know, the project that I had sort of started years ago.
Right. And you said what you wanted to say?
So, you’ve talked a little bit about your plans post-album release. You said that you’ve already started writing another album. Do you have touring plans or anything like that for the summer?
Yeah. We are, I think we’re announcing the dates on Monday [today], but there’s a tour coming up this summer, and then some festivals. So, I think we’re going to be hitting the road quite soon.
You won’t even have a chance to rest.
No, it’s really crazy, I just haven’t stopped. Since that show stopped, I haven’t stopped.
I have to ask, since I write for a partially American blog, is your album being released in the U.S.?
Yeah. I don’t really know how it all works. I think anyone can get it from iTunes, right? Isn’t that how it works?
I was a little unclear. When I looked at the pre-order, I was told, “This album is not available in your country”, but I assume maybe after the release?
I saw that as well, it’s annoying. I think that’s the pre-order situation, but once it’s released on the 29th, then it’s worldwide.
Good, so our American readers will be able to get their hands on that as well.
I hope so, because the time that I spent living in New York, I built a little bit of a fan base there, so I’m really keen that they’re able to hear it.
Are you planning on doing any gigs in the U.S.?
I would absolutely love to. I think we’ve got to sort of concentrate on this side of the pond first. But I would love to go back out to New York and do some shows there.
Well, hopefully we’ll be seeing that in the future. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing the full album. I’ve heard the two songs that you’ve got out, ‘The Fall’ and ‘Save Me’.
Yeah, ‘The Fall’ was with Johnny McDaid, actually.
I think that’s how I came across that one on Twitter (via Polar Patrol Publishing). I saw the videos for both of those. The imagery for both of those is similar, and then also the cover art on your album. Is that kind of an overarching theme for you?
The guy who did the photography is a guy in the States called Eliot Lee Hazel, who actually just shot Thom Yorke’s new project called Atoms for Peace. He is very kind of raw and gritty and quite cinematic, and he was perfect for all this sort of album artwork. And then his best friend, who’s also from L.A., called Maximilla (Lukacs), she shot the video for ‘Save Me’. So it was a real collaboration between all of us about what it was that I was, you know, the sort of visual side of it all. And ‘The Fall’ itself was shot by a friend of mine, a schoolmate of mine. He obviously knows me and knows what I’m like, so that was a good one.
So he knew what would work for you, that’s good. I actually like both of those videos very much, I was just surprised how similar they were, and so I thought maybe there was a theme that you were going for there.
Well, they’re both incredibly me, I guess. I grew up in the middle of a wood in the middle of nowhere in the sort of English countryside, and that stuff never leaves me no matter whether I’ve been living in New York or the city, London, so there’s all that stuff that is so important to my lyric and the theme of what I write about.
Nice. I have one last question to ask you. Since your name has been all over my Twitter feed, I’ve been wanting to ask you about your name. I understand that Bo is not your full first name?
No, it’s not. I was always called ‘Bebe’ as a kid, and then it got sort of shortened to ‘Beebs’ and then ‘Beebo’, then ‘Bo’. (laughs) I don’t know, it’s sort of a weird one.
And that just sort of stuck?
Well, it suits you, it does seem to suit your personality. I’m looking forward to seeing your name across my Twitter feed, and I’m definitely looking forward to hearing your album when that comes out at the end of April.
Thank you so much for giving me a little bit of your time this morning. We appreciate it.
No worries. Lovely to talk to you and hope to speak to you again soon.
We would like to thank Hugo for sorting out this interview and of course the lovely Bo Bruce for taking the time out of her busy press schedule to chat with us.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 15th March 2013 at 3:14 pm
I still don’t really understand why none of my British friends are fans of Reverend and the Makers. And when in Rome, err…Austin, you take an opportunity to speak to the Rev himself, frontman Jon McClure, to talk about the support system back in Sheffield, the band’s reception here in America and their first album release here in the States after the band’s winning performance at the Wednesday British Music Embassy day showcase at Latitude 30. Listen to the interview below.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 15th March 2013 at 3:05 pm
Singer Adam Kane of Brighton’s dream pop band Cave Painting was kind enough to sit down with me before the band’s performance on Wednesday’s British Music Embassy day showcase at Latitude 30. We talked about the band’s musical influences, their wonderful debut album ‘Votive Life’ released last year and much more. Listen to the interview below.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 13th March 2013 at 3:00 pm
Brooklyn’s The Dig came to Austin just prior to the official kick-off of SXSW 2013 this week, first to play a show at Clive Bar as part of the Brooklyn Brewery’s showcase there on Sunday night (10 March), and then at the indoor stage at Stubb’s on the Monday night (11 March). But before their set on Monday, I grabbed the guys, headed for a tranquil spot by the river, and chatted with them about their arduous journey to get to Austin by van, new material headed our way and much more. Listen below.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 13th March 2013 at 11:00 am
Ahead of their appearance at SXSW 2013, Cheryl sat down with brothers David and Joe Dunwell of the Leeds band The Dunwells before their show in DC in mid-February to talk about country music, alphabet soup radio stations and buskers with dogs.
Welcome, is this your first time in DC?
David: Second time in DC, we did a small show during the last tour, so that was in 2011. Hmmmm, oh yes, we were at the Birchmere [which is really outside of the city in Alexandria, Virginia]. Originally, we came to America and came to Memphis for the first time, that’s where we met our management and they brought us back out to record our album.
I am confused on the trajectory of your album, how many times has it been released?
Joe: It’s only been released twice. It was released under an independent label called Playing in Traffic and was released in February 2012. Then it was re-released when we got resigned, and the album got repackaged and we added a few new tracks, but the same title for the album and was out the 28th of August of last year. So it’s a year old in theory, but it feels like it’s just been released.
So did you get a chance to see anything of the city before load in?
Joe: We didn’t. Today has been a hectic day. We did radio all over the place. WRNR in Annapolis and Sirius FM and……
I don’t mean to put you on the spot
David: There are so many letters in your radio stations.
Yeah at home you just have numbers – 1, 2, 6. It’s a lot harder to do it over here. You basically have to get on Sirius or a tv show.
Joe: Sirius is playing us, so that’s good. The Pulse is the one playing us.
I saw that you put out the EP ‘Leaving the Rose’, what inspired doing that?
Joe: That’s kind of just to keep the buzz going in the UK because we are spending so much time in America. Just to have something in the UK to let them know we’re not ditching them. We love the UK and we are looking forward to being back in Yorkshire.
David: We had an amazing opportunity in Los Angeles to do an acoustic session at the Village Recorder, loads of people have recorded there like the Rolling Stones, and Biffy Clyro were in that studio. So we were really excited. It was this magical day where we set up in a circle and we started playing the acoustic versions of the songs.
How did you pick ‘Hide & Seek’ – which is my favourite Imogen Heap song ever?
David: We just love the song.
Joe: I played it one night, and Jonny was there and liked it and it’s been in our back catalogue and history quite a while.
I have to say, it’s is perfect. And while the EP is only available in the UK, so I can’t get it, I was thrilled to find that ‘Hide & Seek’ is available as a free download from your web site. (I later discovered they were selling the EP at the gig, so I did get to buy it!)
Have you been doing anything else, writing on the road while you are here?
David: We are always writing, we always have to be prepared. To be honest, writing is something that we do to wind down as a band. Just to sit and write music is a pleasure. So we’ve actually done loads this tour. It’s also useful to be able to keep changing the set around and play new songs while we’re playing.
So we will hear something that’s not on the album tonight?
Yeah you will. It’s fun for us.
I hear a lot of influences of American country music in your songs. Is that something that you grew up with?
Joe: That’s unintentional, I think it comes from the style of guitar playing, the five part harmonies adds a country twist to it.
David: We’re a fan of American music, I don’t think five lads from Leeds really knew that we were fans of country – that wasn’t really a goal, we were just fans of American music in general. But I take that as a complement that you hear that in our music.
It seems that you are riding the current wave of alt-folk/folk-rock thing here, is that something you set out for or was organically how the music came about?
Joe: We just play our music and see what happens. A lot of people have come up to us and said, “your time is now”, but how do you ever know when you time is? We’ve been slugging it out for 3 and a half years and we just love what we’re doing.
David: Folk rock did not just disappear and gone oh this is good and been brought out of the box again.
But it certainly is in a resurgence. I’m covering a lot of that right now.
David: But there have been folk-rock bands playing for ages and haven’t had the media attention and now all of a sudden they do.
Do you listen to that on your own? Because I am always surprised at how different the music is that artists listen to compared to what they produce.
David: I’m definitely a folk rock fan. I love singer-songwriter style.
Joe: The Frames, Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, English bands like Elbow and Radiohead, so mishmash all that together.
David: American influences come from Ryan Adams and singer/songwriters like that as well.
Mentioning Glen, did you guys used to do a lot of busking early on? Did you ever have a really funny stories like when the guy stole all his money in ‘Once’?
Joe: We did used to do a fair amount of busking because we used to play a lot of pubs and clubs. But no, nothing funny, there were a lot better buskers out there than us. There was a guy with three dogs. He took all the credit. They’d bark along to his songs, they were great .
The opening track on your album (‘I Could Be a King’) I hear of Of Monsters and Men in it, big time. I’m sure you get compared to a lot of different artists right now. Who do you think has been the most favourable comparison that you’ve gotten?
Joe: That’s the first comparison to Of Monsters and Men. We’ve been compared to Mumford and Sons a lot which isn’t a bad thing because 1) they’re a great band, and 2) they are doing amazing well, they’ve kind of opened the floodgates for this kind of music right now.
Have you heard of Milo Greene from LA? They have five members and four lead singers, so you are only one off! But they literally say they have no lead singer and rotate through everyone except the drummer. How do you decide who’s going to take lead on a song?
David: Whether it’s the person who wrote the song, or who had the idea for the song, normally they take the lead vocal. But normally you can feel it as well, Joe’s got a really big powerful voice that sits on top of the big loud parts so Joe would take the big choruses.
Being brothers and cousins and school chums, how does that work in with how you deal with your music? Does familiarity breed contempt or is the longevity what gets you through?
David: We’ve all known each other for such a long time, but we’ve got such different tastes in music it makes it quite interesting when we come together to rehearsal spaces and fight it out. That’s how we get the results that we are all happy with. We make sure that we try to listen to everybody and get everybody’s ideas on the table.
You said that with a huge grin, does that mean there is a lot of fighting?
(laughter) David: No, no fighting’s not the word!
Joe: We have five big personalities in the band and I think that’s what gets us through.
If you could duet with someone, who would you want it to be?
David: I would love to stand in on one of Coldplay’s tours, that would be wonderful to sing a song with Chris Martin.
Joe: Guy Garvey from Elbow. I’ve been listening to the back catalog of his stuff and he just a very clever man.
Well thank you so much for talking the time to talk to me, see you out there.
Cosmo Jarvis isn’t quite a household name. Yet. The proud author of hundreds of songs, four albums, including a double, and a self-penned, produced and directed feature film, Jarvis’s career trajectory is slowly but surely upwards. Anyone familiar with his work will be aware of the heart-on-sleeve autobiographical nature of many of his songs, along with a powerful ability to tell an engaging and thought-provoking story. TGTF was lucky enough to be able to catch a few words with the man himself before the gig, which we will come to in a moment. But what of the gig itself? There’s no polite way to say this – from his hooded lids to gently shuffling demeanour, Jarvis appears a bit stoned. The band is mostly electric tonight, so the more delicate arrangements are abandoned for a faster, barer approach.
Favourite ‘Love This’ is rushed through in the first couple of songs, and the fear is that some more subtle moments might be lost in the mayhem. But as Jarvis becomes more comfortable with the limelight, things settle down, and the set broadens out into a fine run through of Jarvis’s best moments so far. He’s clearly a fine guitarist, the voice sounds big and powerful, and I’m reliably informed that the man himself is considered to be very attractive to the opposite sex… or to the same sex, for that matter. In a welcome contrast to the modest sets becoming all too commonplace, he kicks on for well over 90 minutes, with little pause. When there is a break in the set, the shout of “Look at the sky!” is rewarded with a rendition of that very song. As a new Jarvis composition, and with the potential to be a true breakthrough track, it bears mention here. A wide-eyed ballad, with a loping, downtempo feel, Jarvis breaks out his finest Transatlantic accent and emotes like his life depended on it, which in a way it does. It’s got great commercial potential, but still contains a gently sardonic lyric, even when it on the surface it’s a love song. Great stuff.
Inevitably the set ends with ‘Gay Pirates’, but there’s few songs which could bring a set to a close so well and with such a final crescendo. There’s such a breadth to the material on offer here tonight, the audience are left with a feeling of tired sufficiency, which of course is a fine excuse to head downstairs to the bar and mull things over with a few pints of imported lager. Milling around in the bar afterwards are Jarvis’s cohorts Dave Egan and Tom Hannaford, co-stars in The Naughty Room, deputising as roadies, merch stand guys, and whatever other tasks they can perform to keep the Cosmo show running. There is the sense that this is a little family business, running on goodwill and a shoestring budget, the absolute opposite of the big corporate shindig going on across town. And all the better for it in terms of credibility.
Before the show, TGTF had a quick chat with Jarvis. He comes across as lucid, easy-going, and utterly candid, with no hesitation in answering some of the more personal questions put to him. This is how it went:
Why do you make the music you do?
I didn’t really try anything else. Music was always the thing. I felt a need to make pieces which were thorough and credible in themselves, and which had to have a good reason to be made in the first place – be that a message, or a story, or a moral argument the audience was supposed to take away from the song. It’s very easy to make a three-minute song that’s just a throwaway description of something. I like proper ideas, fictional stories that are pieced together into a rhyming narrative.
Such as ‘Love This’, where you take on God?
He pisses me off a little bit sometimes. What I find incomprehensible is that some people are incapable of seeing the truth of the point of view expressed within that song. I find the fact that they refuse to consider the fact that their belief may be false more frustrating than the belief in itself. For me it wouldn’t be a lack of faith that would stop me believing, it would be my realising something else; rational thought if you will. Good [not God] isn’t necessary for anything other than our own well-being. Things will still live and die and nobody cares if that happens. We are clearly the ones that need good to be around – to prevent genocide or whatever. So we should be the ones to globalise its necessity, rather than localising it to a God, a God that will limit us in other ways. ‘It was meant to be,’ they always say. Unbelievable.
What’s it like growing up in Devon? You can hear the Southwest influence in your music.
Living in Devon, you’re automatically at a disadvantage if you want to do anything: it’s isolated, and not just geographically. If you’re from there, it doesn’t have a lot going for it. People don’t realise that there are real regular human beings living in the beautiful place of Devon – it’s not all sheep and fields. If you’re skint in Devon, it’s worse than if you’re skint anywhere else. At least in a city there’s things to do, there’s options – all there is in Devon is the pub.
That aspect of Plymouth is pretty well documented in ‘The Naughty Room’.
All the guys in the film, like Dave Egan who plays Subaru, are from Devon; they improvise around the lines that I write, so what you hear is a true reflection of Devon culture. I’m working on next movie with him as well – it’s called Abandonhope, a black comedy about a really vile metal band from Plymouth, who are really skilled at what they do, but they’re making music that doesn’t really need to be made, and that’s what the rest of the world seems to think about them. It’s really about competing with your father’s success, and escaping becoming your father yourself. The character Howard’s father used to be a big metal-head in the ‘80s, but he’s now heavily into drugs, and they play out a stubborn relationship and uncompromising view when it comes to the art of metal, which is their downfall. It’s about realising that you can escape the fate of turning out how your parents wanted you to.
Which brings us to the topic of parents. If I may say, there’s an Oedipal aspect to ‘The Naughty Room’…
I had a very, very weird upbringing. That’s where it comes from, definitely. I try not to let it manifest itself too much in Lars von Trier-like depictions of personal fantasies, but many of the wider viewpoints the story needs to exist, the opinionated philosophies of the film, are because of my background.
But your upbringing doesn’t seem to have held you back – you’re taking inspiration from it…
It’s only bad if you’re very traditional and you go by what society expects your relationship with your parents to be – and I happened to grow up comfortably deviating from that. But at the same time I learned very useful things from people who weren’t my family, and I saw early on that parents are very flawed human beings, with fucked-up heads, agendas, and things they can’t say to you because they’re afraid of how you’ll see them… And to a certain extent you have to take them at face value… until they snuff it! They’re proud of what I’m doing, but it’s still a weird relationship.
Do you feel mainstream?
Do you want to be?
No. Definitely not. Not any more, not after I heard Ludacris confirming what I suspected about the music industry, they whole soundvertising thing, where these girls will be sponsored by soft drinks companies to make music. Professor Green’s got his big advert doing the same thing. With that comes the death of artistic integrity, which is the part I’m dreading. All along the way, I was constantly advised to do the right “business” thing, to change my approach and not piss off Radio1, rather than do what I thought was right for my music at the time. [Presumably a reference to the Radio 1 ban on potential breakthrough single ‘Gay Pirates’ for using the phrase “gang rape”.]
It would be good for the mainstream to at least acknowledge my shit. But I don’t want to be ass-kissed like they ass-kiss Ben Howard.
After which TGTF went off on a tangent asking questions about the technicalities of guitar technique which are far too dull to be repeated here. So let’s just let that last, pertinent answer hang in the air for a second: “I don’t want to be ass-kissed like they ass-kiss Ben Howard.” As fate would have it, two important live shows were happening in London that night, and the other one was the Brit Awards. Indeed, it’s quite possible that Ben Howard was collecting his second Brit of the evening just as Cosmo Jarvis was invoking his name. The comparison between the two artists is entirely appropriate. Both are roughly the same age. Both are from pretty much the same place in Devon. Both are acoustic-y singer-songwriters. The figures are entirely in Howard’s favour – his only full-length album reached number four in the UK, whereas none of Jarvis’ four albums have troubled the charts.
Jarvis boasts a decent 1.5-million views of ‘Gay Pirates’, but Howard dwarfs that with 8 million views even of his pointless cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’, and similar figures for his own material. Howard makes music for coffee tables bought from Next, Jarvis’s voice sounds like he’s just about to cough up a coffee table. Howard makes music that’s as inoffensive as a pint of milk, Jarvis releases a single that questions the very existence of God and then offers to take him for a cup of something Fairtrade. Jarvis releases 9-minute epics featuring stream-of-consciousness questionings of his own sanity, Howard releases safe, four-minute dirges which endlessly repeat the same tired platitudes. Howard is a poster-boy for bland, safe, pointless, unit-shifting music for people who know no better, who have never been exposed to anything more exciting than Pinot Grigio and oven chips, and probably don’t want to be.
Jarvis is an unashamed British eccentric-savant, encapsulating the true meaning and heritage of folk music, executed in a range of different musical and visual forms – imagine Bob Dylan brought up in Devon with an always-on internet connection. Howard spent Wednesday night supping champagne and being photographed by the world’s media; Jarvis spent it slightly stoned, in front of a rapt crowd in a north London pub, being photographed by TGTF. Howard has two Brits, Jarvis has none, and even though that’s the way it should be, it says everything you need to know about the cynicism of the pop music machine as expressed through the prism of mainstream media. One final comparison: Jarvis will still be making music in 10 years’ time, and probably for the rest of his life… but Howard? I’m not so sure.